Campbell's letter to Munro dated 17th August 1823

Since the letter of Collector A. D. Campbell to Thomas Munro, Governor of the Madras Presidency, dated 17th August 1823 is very informative of the status of the education system of the Bellary district then (and thereby of the Kannada and Telugu education systems in general), I thought it apt to quote it verbatim from Dharampal's The Beautiful Tree (I don't have access to the data table he presented, so that's not in here, but it doesn't matter). Publishing this letter is doubly apt since it has received an awful lot of neglect by researchers, educators, politicians and thinkers till now. It doesn't deserve it. In fact, it deserves their rapt attention.

The letter shows Campbell's record of the second flaw I have referred to (here, here and here), as well as gives a very good picture of the economic situation of the district. It also must dispell the usual "all Englishmen were racists and bad administrators who tried to maximize the harm to India" bias in chest-thumping my-country-right-or-wrong nationalists who are ready to admit some reason into their lives. I'd refer those in a hurry to para 18 of the letter, although it is unwise to skip any part of the letter.

Also, the letter, to me, shows no proof of the British trying to uproot the existing tree as claimed by Gandhi - in fact, the reforms suggested by Campbell are what any sensible administrator could ever suggest. Campbell only tries to bring quality and money into the system, keeping the structure of Sanskrit-medium high-schools and Kannada-and-Telugu-medium elementary schools (the former of which we know is wrong, but was the structure of the tree then anyway).

For the record, Campbell's reform suggestions were turned down by Thomas Munro's team. Now that is a different story which lead to the English-medium education system of Macaulay. There is not a little chest-thumping about Macaulay in India either; but he I agree did uproot the tree, although I'd beg to differ on the tree being beautiful (as I've begged here, here, here and here). But have we, the Indians, tried to do a better job than aiding the uprooting of the tree? Why do we continue to uproot it today, and even implicitly assume that that uprooting is the best way of progress, as even Amartya Sen seems to believe? Macaulay deserves a separate article or series of articles, but may I ask the reader to search for Macaulay on this blog first (clicking here should do that).

I can almost hear the chest-thumping my-country-right-or-wrong nationalists calling me a traitor for praising the enemy, or even taking his name (obviously without taking the trouble to read the letter yet claiming to be fully aware of its contents), but I only pray that reason may prevail.

I urge the readers of KARNATIQUE to ponder over Campbell's letter in peace. The truth shall reveal itself, cutting through the darkness of pre-conceived notions, if only the spirit is willing. I pray that readers do not let the clear stream of reason lose its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit. Given the length of the letter and the complexity and age of the author's prose, the letter should take at least 8 hours to read and understand. So yeah, this one asks a good bit of your time.

(TNSA: BRP: Vol.958 Pro.25.8.1823 pp.7167-85 Nos.32-33)

  1. The delay of my Amildars, in furnishing the requisite returns, has hitherto prevented my submitting to you the enclosed state­ment called for in your orders of the 25th July 1822, and 19th of June last.

  2. The population of this District is specified in the enclosed statement at 9,27,857 or little less than a million of souls. The number of schools is only 533 containing no more than, 6,641 scholars, or about twelve to each school, and not seven individu­als in a thousand, of the entire population.

  3. The Hindoo scholars are in number 6,398, the Mussulman scholars only 243, and the whole of these are males, with the exception of only sixty girls, who are all Hindoos exclusively.

  4. The English language is taught in one school only. The Tamil in four, the Persian in twenty-one, the Mahratta in twenty-three, the Teloogoo in two hundred and twenty-six, and the Carnataca in two hundred and thirty-five. Besides these, there are twenty-three places of instruction, attended by Bramins exclusively, in which some of the Hindoo sciences, such as Theology, Astronomy, Logic and Law, are still imperfectly taught in the Sanscrit Language.

  5. In these places of Sanscrit instruction in the Hindoo scienc­es, attended by youths, and often by persons far advanced in life, education is conducted on a plan entirely different from that pursued in the schools, in which children are taught read­ing, writing, and arithmetic only, in the several vernacular dialects of the country. I shall endeavour to give a brief out­line of the latter, as to them the general population of the country is confined, and as that population consists chiefly of Hindoos, I shall not dwell on the few Mussulman schools in which Persian is taught.

  6. The education of the Hindoo youth generally commences when they are five years old. On reaching this age, the master and scholars of the school to which the boy is to be sent, are invit­ed to the house of his parents. The whole are seated in a circle round an image of Gunasee, and the child to be initiated is placed exactly opposite to it. The school master, sitting by his side, after having burnt incense and presented offerings, causes the child to repeat a prayer to Gunasee entreating wisdom. He then guides the child to write with its finger in rice the mystic name of the deity, and is dismissed with a present from the parents, according to their ability. The child, next morning commences the great work of his education.

  7. Some children continue at school only five years, the parents, through poverty, or other circumstances, being often obliged to take them away, and consequently, in such cases, the merest smattering of an education is obtained; and when parents take a lively inter­est in the culture of their children’s minds, they not infre­quently continue at school as long as fourteen and fifteen years.

  8. The internal routine of duty for each day will be found, with very few exceptions, and little variation, the same in schools. The hour generally for opening school is six o’clock. The first child who enters has the name of Saraswatee, or the Goddess of learning, written upon the palm of his hand, as a sign of honor, and, on the hand of the second, a cypher is written, to show that he is worthy, neither of praise nor censure, the third scholar receives a gentle stripe; the fourth two, and every succeeding scholar that comes an additional one. This custom as well as the punishments in native schools, seem of a severe kind. The idle scholar is flogged, and often suspended by both hands, and a pulley, to the roof, or obliged to kneel down and rise incessant­ly, which is most painful and fatiguing but perhaps a healthy mode of punishment.

  9. When the whole are assembled, the scholars according to their number and attainments, are divided into several classes. The lower ones of which are placed partly under the care of monitors, whilst the higher ones are more immediately under the superinten­dence of the master, who at the same time has his eye upon the whole school. The number of classes is generally four; and a scholar rises from one to the other, according to his capacity and progress. The first business of a child on entering school is to obtain a knowledge of the letters, which he learns by writing them with his finger on the ground in sand, and not by pronounc­ing the alphabet as among European nations. When he becomes pretty dexterous in writing with his finger in sand, he has then the privilege of writing either with an iron style on cadjan leaves, or with a reed on paper, and sometimes on the leaves of the aristolochia identica, or with a kind of pencil on the Hulli­gi or Kadata, which answer the purpose of slates. The two latter in these districts are the most common. One of these is a common oblong board about a foot in width and three feet in length. This board, when plained smooth, has only to be smeared with a little rice and pulverized charcoal and it is then fit for use. The other is made of cloth, first stiffened with rice water, doubled in folds, resembling a book, and is then covered with a composi­tion of charcoal and several gums. The writing on either these may be effaced by a wet cloth. The pencil used is called Buttapa, a kind of white clay substance, somewhat resembling a crayon, with the exception of being rather harder.

  10. Having attained a thorough knowledge of the letters, the scholar next learns to write the compounds, or the manner of embodying the symbols of the vowels in the consonants and the formation of syllables, etc., then the names of men, villages, animals, etc., and finally arithmetical signs. He then commits to memory an addition table, and counts from one to a hundred; he afterwards writes easy sums in addition, and subtraction of money; multiplication and the reduction of money, measures, etc. Here great pains are taken with the scholars, in teaching him the fractions of an integer, which descend, not be tens as in our decimal fractions, but by fours, and are carried to a great extent. In order that these fractions, together with the arith­metical table, in addition, multiplication, and those on the threefold measures of capacity, weight, and extent, may be ren­dered quite familiar to the minds of the scholars, they are made to stand up twice a day, in rows, and repeat the whole after one of the monitors.

  11. The other parts of a native education consist in deciphering various kinds of hand writing, in public and other letters, which the school master collects from the different sources; writing common letters, drawing up forms of agreement; reading; fables and legendary tales; and committing various kinds of poetry to memory, chiefly with a view to attain distinctness and clearness in pronunciation, together with readiness and correctness in reading any kind of composition.

  12. The three books which are most common in all the schools, and which are used indiscriminately by the several castes, are the Ramayanum, Maha Bharata, and Bhagvata; but the children of the manufacturing class of people have in addition to the above, books peculiar to their own religious tenets; such as the Naga­lingayna Kutha, Vishvakurma Poorana, Kumalesherra Kalikamahata; and those who wear the Lingum such as the Busvapoorana, Raghavan­kunkauya Geeroja Kullana, Unabhavamoorta, Chenna Busavaswara Poorana, Gurilagooloo, etc., which are all considered sacred, and are studied with a view of subserving their several religious creeds.

  13. The lighter kind of stories which are read for amusement, are generally the Punchatantra, Bhatalapunchavansatee, Punklee Soo­pooktahuller, Mahantarungenee. The books on the principles of the vernacular languages themselves, are the several dictionaries and grammars, such as the Nighantoo, Umara, Subdamumbured, Shub­deemunee Durpana, Vyacurna Andradeepeca, Andhranamasungraha, etc., etc., but these last, and similar books, which are most essen­tial, and, without which, no accurate or extensive knowledge of the vernacular languages can be attained, are, from the high price of manuscripts and the general poverty of the masters, of all books, the most uncommon in the Native Schools; and such of them which are found there are in consequence of the ignorance, carelessness, and indolence of copyists in general, full of blunders, and in every way most incorrect and imperfect.

  14. The whole of the books, however, in the Teloogoo and Carnata­ca schools, which are by far the most numerous in this district, whether they treat of religion, amusement, or the principles of these languages, are in verse; and in a dialect quite distinct from that of conversation and business. The alphabets of the two dialects are the same, and he who reads the one, can read, but not understand, the other also. The natives, therefore, read these (unintelligible) books to them, to acquire the power of reading letters, in the common dialect of business; but the poetical is quite distinct from the prose dialect, which they speak and write; and though they read these books, it is to the pronunciation of the syllables, not to the meaning or construc­tion of the words, that they attend. Indeed few teachers can explain, and still fewer scholars understand, the purport of the numerous books which they thus learn to repeat from memory. Every school boy can repeat verbatim a vast number of verses, of the meaning of which, he knows no more than the parrot that has been taught to utter certain words. Accordingly, from studies, in which he has spent many a day of laborious, but fruitless toil, the native scholar gains no improvement, except the exercise of memory and the power to read and write on the common business of life; he makes no addition to his stock of useful knowledge, and acquires no moral impressions. He has spent his youth in reading syllables, not words, and, on entering into life, he meets with hundreds and thousands of books of the meaning of which he can form not even the most distant conjecture, and as to the declen­sion of a noun, or the conjugation of a verb, he knows no more than of the most abstruse problem in Euclid. It is not to be wondered at, with such an imperfect education, that, in writing a common letter to their friends, orthographical errors and other violations of grammar, may be met with in almost every line written by a native.

  15. The government could not promote the improved education of their native subjects in these districts more, than by patroniz­ing versions, in the common prose and spoken dialect, of the most moral parts of their popular poets and elementary works, now committed to memory in unintelligible verse. He who could read would then understand what he reads, which is far from the case at present. I am acquainted with many persons very capable of executing such a task; and, in the Teloogoo language, would gladly superintend it, as far as is in my power, at this distance from the Presidency.

  16. The economy with which children are taught to write in the native schools, and the system by which the more advanced scholars are caused to teach the less advanced and at the same time to confirm their own knowledge is certainly admirable, and well deserved the imitation it has received in England. The chief defects in the native schools are the nature of the books and learning taught and the want of competent masters.

  17. Imperfect, however, as the present education of the natives is, there are a few who possess the means to command it for their children even were books of a proper kind plentiful and the master every way adequate to the task imposed upon him, he would make no advance from one class to another, except as he might be paid for his labour. While learning the first rudiments, it is common for the scholar to pay to the teacher a quarter of a rupee, and when arrived as far as to write on paper, or at the higher branches of arithmetic, half a rupee per mensem. But in proceeding further such as explaining books, which are all writ­ten in verse, giving the meaning of Sanscrit words, and illus­trating the principles of the vernacular languages, such demands are made as exceed the means of most parents. There is, there­fore, no alternative, but that of leaving their children only partially instructed, and consequently ignorant of the most essential and useful parts of a liberal education. But there are multitudes who cannot even avail themselves of the advantages of this system, defective as it is.

  18. I am sorry to state that this is ascribable to the gradual but general impoverishment of the country. The means of the manufacturing classes have been, of late years greatly dimin­ished, by the introduction of our own European manufactures, in lieu of the Indian cotton fabrics. The removal of many of our troops, from our own territories, to the distant frontiers of our newly subsidized allies, has also, of late years, affected the demand for grain, the transfer of the capital of the country, from the Native Governments, and their Officers, who liberally expended it in India, to Europeans, restricted by law from em­ploying it even temporarily in India, and daily draining it from the land, has likewise tended to this effect which has not been alleviated by a less rigid enforcement of the revenue due to the state. The greater part of the middling and lower classes of the people are now unable to defray the expenses incident upon the education of their offspring, while their necessities require the assistance of their children as soon as their tender limbs are capable of the smallest labour.

  19. It cannot have escaped the Government that of nearly a mil­lion of souls in this district, not 7,000 are now at school; a proportion which exhibits but too strongly the result above stated. In many villages, where formerly there were schools, there are now none; and in many others, where there were large schools, now only a few of the children of the most opulent are taught, others being unable, from poverty, to attend or to pay what is demanded.

  20. Such is the state, in this district, of the various schools, in which reading writing, and arithmetic, are taught in the vernacular dialects of the country, as has been always usual in India, by teachers who are paid by their scholars. The higher branches of learning on the contrary, have always, in this coun­try, been taught in Sanscrit; and it has ever in India, been deemed below the dignity of science, for her professors to barter it for hire. Lessons in Theology, Astronomy, Logic and Law, continue to be given gratuitously as of old, by a few learned Bramins, to some of their disciples. But learning, though, it may proudly decline to sell its stores, has never flourished in any country, except under the encouragement of the ruling power and the countenance and support, once given to science in this part of India, have long been withheld.

  21. Of the 533 institutions for education, now existing in this district, I am ashamed to say not one now derives any support from the state. I have therefore received, with peculiar satis­faction, the inquiries instituted by the Honorable the Governor-in-Council, on this interesting subject; and trust that this part of India may benefit from the liberality which dictated the record of his intention, to grant new funds where the same may be deemed expedient, and to restore to their original purpose, all funds diverted from this source.

  22. There is no doubt that in former times, especially under the Hindoo Governments very large grants, both in money, and in land, were issued for the support of learning. Considerable Yeomiahs, or grants of money, now paid to Bramins from my treasury, and many of the numerous and valuable Shotrium villages, now in the enjoyment of Bramins in this district, who receive one-fourth, one-third, one-half, two-thirds, and sometimes the whole, of their annual revenue, may, I think, be traced to this source. Though it did not consist with the dignity of learning to receive from her votaries hire; it has always in India been deemed the duty of Government to evince to her the highest respect, and to grant to her those emoluments which she could not, consistently with her character receive from other sources; the grants issued by former governments, on such occasions, contained, therefore, no unbecoming stipulations on conditions. They all purport to flow from the free bounty of the ruling power, merely to aid the maintenance of some holy or learned man, or to secure his prayers for the state. But they were almost universally granted to learned or religious persons, who maintained a school for one or more of the sciences, and taught therein gratuitously; and though not expressed in the deed itself, the duty of continuing such gratuitous instruction was certainly implied in all such grants.

  23. The British Government, with its distinguished liberality, has continued all grants of this kind and even in many cases where it was evident that they were merely of a personal nature. But they have not, until now, intimated any intention to enforce the implied, but now dormant, condition of these grants. The revenue of the original grantee has descended, without much in­quiry, to his heirs. But his talents and acquirements have not been equally hereditary, and the descendants of the original grantees will rarely be found to possess either their learning, or powers of instruction. Accordingly, considerable alienations of revenue, which formerly did honor to the state, by upholding and encouraging learning, have deteriorated, under our rule, into the means of supporting ignorance; whilst science deserted by the powerful aid she formerly received from government, has often been reduced to beg her scanty and uncertain meal from the chance benevolence of charitable individuals; and it would be difficult to point out any period in the history of India, when she stood more indeed of the proffered aid of government, to raise her from the degraded state into which she has fallen, and dispel the prevailing ignorance which so unhappily pervades the land.

  24. At a former period, I recollect, that the government, on the recommendation of the College Board, authorised the late Mr Ross, then Collector in the neighbouring district of Cuddapah, to establish experimental schools with the view of improving the education of the natives; but the lamented death of that zealous and able public officer led to the abandonment of a plan, to which his talents and popularity in the country were peculiarly calculated to give success. As Secretary to the college, and to your Board, I was, at that time, a warm advocate for such experi­ment; and, if now allowed, I should gladly attempt to superintend some arrangement of that kind, in my present provincial situa­tion.

  25. I would propose the appointment of an able Shastry from amongst the Law students at the college, with an addition to his existing pay of only 10 pagodas per mensem, to be placed under me at the principal station of the district, to instruct gratuitous­ly all who chose to attend him, in the Hindoo sciences in the Sanscrit language, and the native school masters, in the grammar of the Teloogoo and Carnataca tongues, being those vernacular here; such a man I have no doubt that I could soon obtain from the college; for, if one with all the requisite qualifications is not at present attached to the institution, there are many that I know there who can speedily qualify themselves for it in a very short time.

  26. Subordinate to this man and liable to his periodical visita­tions, I would recommend that seventeen school masters, for Teloogoo and Carnataca, be entertained, at from 7 to 14 rupees each per mensem to be stationed at the seventeen Cusba stations under each of my Amildars, and liable to their supervision, to teach gratuitously these languages. Their lowest pay might be fixed at 7 rupees, and might be raised, by fixed gradations, with the increasing number of their scholars, as high as the maximum above stated. All of these might be selected from the best in­formed of the present school masters here; but, with reference to the low state of knowledge amongst the present persons of that class, most of them will previously require instruction from the Head Shastry, in grammar, etc. Though forbidden to demand money all such masters should be allowed to receive any presents their scholars may offer to them; particularly those usual, on entering or quitting school.

  27. The highest expense of such an institution would be 273 rupees, the lowest 154 rupees per mensem. The first expense must necessarily be borne by government, who alone are able to origi­nate, and, at first support, such a plan. But proper steps may be taken to engage in it the aid of the more opulent classes of the community, and if practicable to induce them, in due time, will­ingly to contribute to the support of such schools. Indeed, I have little doubt that the plan would soon carry with it the united consent, and grateful approbation, of the more respectable and well informed of the inhabitants at large.

  28. It would also greatly accelerate the progress and efficiency of such schools, if Government were to appropriate a moderate annual sum, to the purpose of preparing and printing, at the college press, or elsewhere, suitable books for the use of these schools, in the prose, or common, dialects, of the Teloogoo and Carnataca languages; on the principle stated by me in a former part of this letter. These should consist of selections from the most approved native school books, fables, proverbs, etc., now in use in the schools or well known in the country to the exclusion, in the first instance, of all new publications whatever. Books of a popular and known character, intelligible to all who read, would thus be procurable at a cheaper rate, and in more correct state, than at present, and the teachers might be employed to dispose of them at low prices.

  29. If public examinations once a year were instituted before the Head Shastry, and small premiums of badges of distinction were distributed, for the purpose of rewarding, on such occasions, those who are most advanced, a suitable effect might be produced, and a powerful stimulus afforded to the students.

  30. To cover the first expense of these schools, and to provide further for their gradual extension, if found, advisable, without entailing any additional or new expense on government, it might be provided, that, on the demise of any persons now holding Yeomiahs or alienated lands, a new inquiry be instituted; and that, though the same may have been continued for more than one generation by the British Government, it be resumed, and carried to a new fund, to be termed the school ‘fund’ (to which the proposed expense should also be debited), unless it is clearly stated that the body of the original grant to be ‘hereditary’, on the intention of the ruling power at the time to make such grant hereditary, be clearly proved to the satisfaction of government.

  31. If an arrangement of this kind is sanctioned, I have little doubt that, in a few years, the receipts from such a fund would more than counterbalance the disbursement. But even if they did not, the charge would be comparatively trifling. The enactments of the British Parliament contemplate such a charge. The known liberality of the authorities in England on this subject ensure to it sanction: the supreme government have set the example; and, the Provincial functionaries in the Madras territories ought perhaps to take blame to themselves; that they have waited to be called upon, before they stood forth as the organ of public opinion, in a matter of such importance and universal interest; I sincerely hope that it will not, as before, be allowed to sink into oblivion; but that the information submitted by the several Collectors, will enable your Board and the government, to mature, from their suggestions, some practical, or at least some experi­mental plan for the improvement of education, and the support of learning in Southern India.

Bellary,                                                                            A.D. Campbell,
17th August 1823.                                                             Collector.


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